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Villagers refuse to budge

- Nagri residents turn up for meeting with govt committee

Ranchi, July 16: Nagri residents, who had failed to turn up before a high powered committee on Saturday to find a solution to the ongoing land dispute, today appeared in full force before the same panel at the Birsa Agricultural University auditorium in Kanke and made it clear that they would not give up their land for the construction of three premier educational institutions.

The 250-odd villagers started arriving in groups around noon, and were seated in the auditorium by 12.30pm, a few minutes before the five-member high powered committee comprising finance secretary Sukhdev Singh, land revenue secretary N.N. Pandey, South Chotanagpur commissioner Surendra Singh, Ranchi deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey besides revenue and land reforms minister and committee chairman Mathura Mahto arrived.

As they were urged to speak, the villagers started presenting their points of view one after another. Though their styles differed, the substance remained the same.

Jaan denge par jameen nahin denge (we will sacrifice our lives but not give land),” was the common refrain.

Though the media was not allowed into the auditorium, the discussions were clearly audible outside as the villagers spoke on the microphone.

“Our family has been cultivating the land for five generations. My children could take to crime if they are not allowed to work in the fields. I will not give my land at any cost, I will sacrifice my life but not give the land,” was Nagri resident Sumitra Toppo’s assertion.

Social activist Dayamani Barla, who has been leading the protest, said the land acquisition was not valid at Nagri.

“Jharkhand falls under the Fifth schedule of the Constitution. Here, only the gram sabha is empowered to give land. According to Section 46 of Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, tribal land cannot be taken by non-tribals or the government without prior permission of the gram sabha. But in this case, the permission of gram sabha was never taken. Thus we can’t say the land has been acquired,” she said.

Social activist Gladston Dundung challenged the high court order stating that the chief justice of Jharkhand High Court used to be chancellor of NUSRL, and thus could not take up his own case and deliver any judgment.

Tribal leader Prabhakar Tirkey said the government should use 3,000 acres of surplus land acquired for Heavy Engineering Corporation, 400 acres acquired for Birla Institute of Technology-Mesra and 4,000 acres land acquired for Tata instead of using agricultural land belonging to tribals.

Another tribal leader, Ratan Tirkey, said acquisition of land at Nagri violated norms formulated by the state government in 2008, which says government cannot acquire agricultural land.

More than 10 villagers and their leaders deposed before the high powered committee before Mahto declared the meeting concluded around 2pm.

“I am happy that you people turned up before the committee. Now the committee will report to the government with due respect to your sentiments,” he said.

Later, Mahto described the meeting as successful. He added that the government would submit its report to the government in a week.